Three prominent fighters broke through with their first wins in an extended period of time on Saturday night’s UFC 133 card in Boise, Idaho.
Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos was understandably thrilled after scoring a unanimous decision over newcomer Blagoy Ivanov in the main event.
“The whole time during the fight, I was thinking about one year ago,” said dos Santos, who has been battling USADA over a positive drug test since losing a title fight to Stipe Miocic in May 2017. “One year later, I am victorious again. It feels great to be back.”
Dos Santos hopes for another shot against Miocic, who lost the heavyweight belt last week to Daniel Cormier. Dos Santos and Miocic have split a pair of previous matchups.
Dos Santos effectively used his jab to keep Ivanov, the former World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion, at bay and pick up his first win in more than two years.
It had been even longer for featherweight Chad Mendes and women’s bantamweight standout Cat Zingano.
Mendes returned from a two-year suspension for a violation of the organization’s anti-doping policy to knock out Myles Jury in the first round.
Before he was forced to the sidelines, Mendes had lost his previous two bouts. His last win before Saturday had come in April 2015.
“This moment is incredible,” he said. “You don’t know what to expect after a long layoff, so to go out and finish the fight that way, I’m on cloud nine right now. A big part of the game plan had been to wrestle but, once I was out there, I could just feel it coming.
“To be honest, I don’t have any plan right now. I just wanted to focus on getting this one done. Now, I’ll go back and talk to my team and the UFC and see what makes sense. It just feels good to be back”
Zingano understands the emotion. Her three-fight losing streak before Saturday night paled in comparison to the litany of injuries and personal tragedies she has endured throughout a tumultuous career.
She looked like her old self in dominating Marion Reneau on her way to a unanimous-decision victory, her first since a win over current champ Amanda Nunes in 2014.
“I feel so amazing,” she said. “It feels so good to be back on top and to put it all together again and realize what I can do out there.”
Sage Northcutt, one of the more popular characters in the UFC, earned his first win at welterweight with a second-round knockout of Zak Ottow.
It was his first career win at welterweight after suffering the only two losses of his career in his two previous attempts to move up to 170 pounds.
“I felt great out there tonight,” he said. “When I fight at 170, I have way more energy and strength. At 155, I feel too drained because I walk around so lean. He was definitely bigger than me in the Octagon tonight, but I was able to tire him out because of how much energy and strength I had. He had to spend a lot of energy trying to take me down and hold me down but my cardio made it my night. At 170, I feel like I’m one of the strongest and fastest guys in this division so I’m going to talk to my team and the UFC and figure out what we should do next.”
Also on the main card, featherweight Rick Glenn earned a split decision over Dennis Bermudez and welterweight Niko Price knocked out Randy Brown with a series of short punches off his back.
Featherweight Raoni Barcelos highlighted the preliminary card with a spectacular knockout of Kurt Holobaugh.
Mark de la Rosa submitted flyweight Elias Garcia for the only other stoppage of the preliminary card.
Alejandro Perez, Alexander Volkanovski, Jessica Aguilar and Liz Carmouche picked up unanimous-decision wins. Flyweight Said Nurmagomedov captured a split-decision over Justin Scoggins.